7 Points: Eastern Washington vs. Texas Tech

Your ultimate preview as Texas Tech opens at home against Eastern Washington.

1. The Setting

Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (0-0, 0-0)
Bad Guys: Eastern Washington Eagles (0-0, 0-0)
When: Saturday, September 2nd @ 3:00 pm
Where: Jones AT&T Stadium; Lubbock, Texas
TV/Stream: FSN Affiliates (FOX Sports Go)
Radio/Stream: 97.3 FM | Affiliates | TuneIn App

2. Uniform Tracker

Remember, we’ll be using this as a uniform tracker for the year. This is not a prediction, just a placeholder. I am also not a graphic designer, so it doesn’t look great, I’m but a lowly caveman.

3. The Big Storyline

* The Primer: Eastern Washington Eagles vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders
* Lubbock Restaurant Update 2017: An Interview with Lubbock in The Loop
* 2017 Game Posters – Handsome Touchdown Boys II: Lubbock Heat
* Recruiting on the Plains Week 1
* Quote Board: Kingsbury, Stawarz and Washington Discuss EWU Eagles
* The Big 12 Report: Week 1
* Let’s Talk About Stats: Eastern Washington vs. Texas Tech
* Eats & Bounds: Lubbock Concerts, Events and TTU Sports – 08/31/17

Typically, this is reserved for the big storyline for the game itself, we’ll devote a bit of time to that major storyline, but also to where things stand to start the season.

The main storyline for the game is down to the defense. We’ve talked about it all offseason and just like anything else during the offseason, we tend to talk it into the ground. Hopefully we’ll have answers about whether the defensive line is improved. Will the defensive ends will be able to generate a pass rush? Will the linebackers will be able to shed blocks and make stops at or behind the line of scrimmage on a regular basis? Will the cornerbacks be able to cover Big 12 receivers? Can the safeties no longer allow receivers to get behind them and can then be quick enough to support the run? Will the defense be able to crack the top 100 of defenses? How about top 80? Dare to dream, right?

The offense has taken hits here and there through the spring. From the transfers of Jonathan Giles and Tony Brown to the grade issue of Da’Leon Ward who probably won’t play this year due to grades and losing guys like Ian Sadler and Zach Austin to injury means that guys have had to step up.

Maybe the most underrated things that have happened have been the transfers. No, not the transfers out, but the transfers into the program. Consider the following individuals: Derrick Willies; Nic Shimonek; De’Quan Bowman; McLane Carter; JoJo Robinson; Paul Starwarz; Jacob Hines; Tre King; Desmond Nisby; Eli Howard; Mychealon Thomas; Kolin Hill; Dakota Allen; Jaylon Lane; Justus Parker; Vaughnte Dorsey; Octavious Morgan; Quentin Yontz; Tony Jones; Willie Sykes; Thomas Leggett; and Dominic Panazzolo.

Consider how most, if not all of these guys will play significant roles on this team and they’re all transfers. And I’m sure I don’t eve have all of them, but the idea is still the same in that the players who are expected to contribute are both home-grown to an extent, but more than that, they are also guys who started elsewhere and have found Lubbock, Texas as home. For me, so much of the season will be dependent on these transfers having significant contributions to this team and for those true home-grown players to finally step into the limelight.

4. Keys for Texas Tech

  • The Texas Tech offensive line will need to show very quickly that they are ready and the half-assed pass blocking that happened last year was last year. This year’s group needs to be physical and show that they can be dominant rather than mere speed bumps for defenders. The initial reports out of camp is that the offensive line still needs work. They’ll need to be ready against EWU.
  • I’m not totally sure what EWU will do on offense, but if last year is any indication, the Texas Tech defense will need to tackle well in space and because EWU liked to be so varied on offense, it somewhat forces opposing defenses to be somewhat vanilla. The EWU quarterback seems like he’s good enough to figure out how to beat your.
  • I think this means that the secondary will need to be on point and they’ll all get a workout. I fully expect Gibbs to utilize at least 9 to 10 defenders in the secondary. EWU will run you ragged, sorta like Texas Tech likes to do.
  • The big question for me will be how Texas Tech decides to play the tight end. Typically, you bring in that third linebacker to play the tight end, but maybe Texas Tech will just use the 4-2-5 as base for the most part and deal with the tight end just using someone like Justus Parker or Octavious Morgan.
  • Wrap-up and make those open field tackles. The Texas Tech defenders have seen it from their own offense all preseason, but EWU will want to get Texas Tech in space, make people miss. Minimize the damage and move on to the next play.
  • Offensively, I’d love to see Texas Tech be varied because that’s the most fun Texas Tech. Let Shimonek do his thing, but run the ball to make the EWU defense not be sure what’s about to happen next. I think Texas Tech will be fine at running back, between the four options.

5. What to Watch

The EWU defense is was no joke last year, they got to the quarterback, the defensive lien did a very good job of stunting while controlling their gaps. Eastern Washington typically rushes four and as of recently, EWU has moved to a 4-2-5 defense, which I think most teams are employing, including Texas Tech.

In fact, the key to the EWU defense is probably the defensive line, where noseguard Jay-Tee Tiuli anchors the line at 320 pounds, but there’s more size there than you might expect:

Now a senior, the 6-foot-2, 270-pound Havili, a former linebacker, has moved to Ebukam’s old spot at “buck” end. Junior Keenan Williams (6-3, 255), a Cheney product, will start at field end.

“I’m excited about where Albert is right now, and Keenan, too,” Ena said. “And they’re interchangeable. I love that.”

As in past years, the Eagles will rotate freely. Ena is excited about field end backups Jim Townsend (6-4, 250) and Conner Baumann (6-2, 250), both juniors.

EWU also isn’t afraid to blitz 5 if the situation calls for it, they’ll bring a linebacker on a blitz, but again, the defensive line really does a good job of creating pressure on their own.

Watch this first.

The Eastern Washington offense is as wide open as you think. They were a spread team that uses motion, the offensive line does an excellent job of pulling and creating space and angles. They use almost everything in the spread offense bag of tricks, including jailbreak screens, jet sweeps, reverses, zone read with the quarterback, using a receiver as a wildcat type of player capable of throwing a 30 yard pass, etc. The receivers last year (I know that a lot of them aren’t there) did an excellent job of gaining yards after catch. Significant yards after catch. The offensive line does a more than adequate job of keeping defenders in front of them and they’ll employ a tight end, so be on the lookout for the use of a tight end within the traditional spread offense.

Oh, and we haven’t even talked about the quarterback, who really is pretty special to watch. I’d think that most BCS teams would like to have a player like him. He can make every pass that you need from a spread quarterback and you add in his mobility and it’s scary how good he can probably be in another year or two. I think if you play zone coverage, the whole game, Eastern Washington and the quarterback will eat your lunch.

6. Coaches Corner

From Eastern Washington head coach Aaron Best on who had the best preseason for the Eagles:

“Jay-Tee Tuili has played really solid up to this point. Josh Lewis is always in the right place at the right time, and Mitch Fettig. Those are kind of your consummate guys that you know what you’re going to get, but we also saw them perform even at a higher level than they were in spring or a higher level than they were last fall. Players like Kurt Calhoun continue to be leaders. That’s not just from the physical element it is also from the mental and leadership element.

We haven’t seen Cole Karstetter since North Dakota State last year, but he’s back in a roll as a starter on paper and he’s come back physically good. He’s performed well in a lot of situations thus far, so were excited about him on defense.

Keenan Williams is also another player who has been in the role of third/fourth defensive end gotten some reps, and now he becomes a starter come game one. So we’re excited to see a Cheney native put on the Eagle jersey and start a few games for us, and hopefully a lot to come in his career. Offensively it is by committee a little bit at the receiver position.

I’m curious to see how those guys perform in games – we are all. We see them in practice, but were biased because we love those kids. They have a bunch of smiles and a bunch of good energy, and they’ve waited so long for this opportunity. But by committee I’m curious to see who steps up at Texas Tech and who’s going to continue to step up along the way.

Gage obviously is in a situation where we challenged him as far as getting more leadership out of him. I think he’s done a good job, but I still want to push the envelope a little bit more. Obviously he’d probably like to take about three throws back this camp, and we kind of smile about those things, but he’s human. Like we talked and said it at the same time a couple days ago; we’d rather have them now than have them come during the season. We don’t want to gift-wrap too many presents for any defense, whether it be against an Eagle defense or anybody else.

Offensively we’re also excited about our three backs running behind that offensive line which is coming back and experienced. And just because you are experienced doesn’t mean you are better, it just means you’re more experienced. So it’s our job as coaches to maximize everybody’s potential and to get guys to over-achieve. There are a lot of names on that list, but that’s how good we feel about our guys personally and from a team perspective.”

7. Prediction

I haven’t been able to find anything online other than at 5Dimes, where the line has moved from Texas Tech favored by 14 to now just 12.5 I’ll take the points and I think Texas Tech rolls. You better get your ass ready for unbridled optimism from me this year.

Contributor Prediction Comment
Michael 45-27 Texas Tech wins 45-27, pulling away in the third. The defense finds its footing in the second half as does the running game.
Spencer 38-31 Texas Tech wins 38-31, with a late score from Eastern Washington. Not as close as the final score, but closer than fans want, injecting some uneasiness from day one.
Kyle 52-24 Texas Tech wins 52-24. It’ll be close at halftime but Tech’s superior firepower puts away a tough Eastern Washington team for a convincing win.
Brian 42-27 42-27 Tech. Offense doesn’t click until the 4th, most of the points come near the end
Dan 58-27 Texas Tech jumps out early with a 21-0 score over EWU, and never looks back. Goes on to take the victory at 58-27.

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